Saturday, May 18, 2013
Swallows swooping, gliding, wheeling, and diving in the sunlight air above the Cottage Pool are a summer fixture. Sometimes they're joined by cedar waxwings or chimney swifts. Occasionally a few purple martins stop by for a meal. Come darkness, the bug-rich arena becomes the hunting province of nighthawks and bats.
I especially like watching the tree swallows—though only because I enjoy seeing those blue-green iridescent flashes when bright sunlight at the right angle bounces off the bird's topside feathers. Otherwise, all swifts, swallows, and their kin are the personification of aerobatic grace on the wing—maneuvering at high speed as the chase their prey through the air, twisting, plummeting, hovering, ascending, all managed with mesmerising fluid elegance.
The photo above—admittedly mediocre—is of perhaps twenty of so rough-winged swallows I watched the other morning. Which, I'll also admit, is mostly an educated guess. To my eye they appeared slightly larger than bank swallows, and lacked the dark breast band. And they weren't white enough on the underside to be immature tree swallows. Plus their flight seemed more gliding and less fluttering. Additional keys to the contrary, rough-winged swallows seems reasonable.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
|Morning sun on burgeoning fox grape leaves.|
Sunny and warm after a weekend of relighting the woodstove, nighttime lows dipping to the "frost warning" mark, and chilly daytime temps that belied their pleasant mid-May appearance—requiring long pants and a jacket to comfortably sit out on the deck for any length of time.
So, is spring really, truly, finally here? Maybe. Though I fear the likely scenario is we'll now swing the other way—directly into the 80-plus degree heat of summer. That seems to be the new normal for Ohio in recent years: spring as a minimalist season, a mere blip on the radar; a deep-freeze dose of harsh winter to usher in the vernal equinox, a few mild days in which a handful of early ephemerals rush to appear, then more cold and rainy weeks, another soupçon of nice weather to allow the grass time to grow rampantly, followed by additional cold and rain before a few springlike days arrive—after which we dash headlong into full-blown, sweat-inducing, break-out-the-hammock-and-swelter summer.
Spring? Why that was merely an old-fashioned notion, an outdated rumor. Who has time for spring?
Me! I love spring. I adore spring. Way more than summer which is too insufferably hot for us boreal-programed creatures. We need our temperate fix before the shake-and-bake purgatory of July and August.
I don't want to do summer until I've had spring!
Yeah, I'm maybe a little pessimistic and more than a little grumpy. Because I'm tired of my favorite season being sullied with, messed up, interrupted, ignored, abbreviated, shortchanged, aborted! I feel abandoned, robbed! A victim of fickle new weather patterns. Enough is enough!
Consider this the lodging of an official complaint.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
This morning I slip-slid my way down the steep bank below the cottage to the water's edge, where I spent a half hour fishing the deep channel that runs along the middle of the stream. A nice smallmouth was nosily feeding there yesterday evening, so I had high hopes.
Alas! Either the bass had moved on, or else I wasn't offering a sufficiently seductive lure. I caught and released a couple of smaller bronzebacks, three or four rock bass, and perhaps a dozen pugnacious bluegill—about what I could have taken from the Cottage Pool, without the rough descent. But nothing worth discussing.
Not that I really cared. Spring and the stream fishing season has just begun. I'll enjoy river waltzes with my share of hefty fish sooner or later. Just dusting off the tackle and renewing old acquaintances with the rhythm of working moving water is sufficient…at least for now.
Of course my fellow feathered angler—the great blue heron wading the shallows downstream as I made my quartering casts—was fishing to eat. Not catching means not eating. I would, of course, have tossed him those smaller fish I turned loose. But somehow, I doubt the big bird would have welcomed the handout. In spring, with the sun shining and the river running full and sparkling, a liquid emerald, we anglers can afford to stand on our pride.
Monday, May 6, 2013
Quintessential spring dressed in pink and white.
A single tree becomes a magnificent bouquet.
Exquisite flowers—delicate, astonishing!
And not to just be glimpsed in hurried passing…
|…but examined, admired, given full attention.|
|Beauty so breathtaking demands time.|
Friday, May 3, 2013
I hastily dried my hands and rushed out the back door to the rescue.
Frankly, a tree swallow was about the last bird I'd have expected to see injured on the ledge. Though they feed regularly above the pool in front of the cottage—aerial masters, dipping and diving after mealtime insects—this particular window is located well under the eave of the cottage, and looks out on an overgrown corner of the upstream portion of the yard. A white pine shades above, a couple of large sycamore intertwine and overhang the pine, there's a lilac only a couple feet away, a wall of honeysuckle along the top of the bank, and several volunteer maples which further screen the yard from the river almost completely—to the point you can barely catch a glint of water moving beyond the leaves.
I've purposely left this corner dark and dim so's to furnish a cool, shady retreat on a hot summer's day. I couldn't see how a bug-chasing swallow might even fly into this screened and shadowy nook from the river, nor would it be easy from any direction. Indeed, this was the first bird of any sort that I've heard thump into this window.
Yet one had…fooled by the window's mirrored world-beyond illusion, into colliding head-on with the unyielding glass. Now, the question was whether or not the little swallow with such stunning blue-green iridescent feathers would survive his mistake.
I did what I usually do—scooped the injured bird into my hands. Is this the right thing to do? I don't know. But I know when I've elected to leave a fallen bird on its own, they seem to die more often than not. Perhaps their injuries are too great, but maybe sometimes it's due to shock. And maybe I'm just fooling myself—but they seem to do better when I hold them upright, control their premature struggles, add warmth, smooth their feathers, offer gentle words of encouragement.
Yeah, it's probably silly. But I do it anyway. And it's really neat when a limp and lifeless bird suddenly begins to reawaken—a mysterious light reappears in their eye, the everyday miracle of life returns, and hope becomes reality. And even if I did nothing to make it happen, I at least witnessed its occurrence while holding that creature in my hands.
After fifteen minutes or so, the tree swallow seemed fully perked up. Whether or not it would be able to fly, only a trial would reveal. But after snapping a quick portrait, I wished it Godspeed and opened my hand…and like a swift bolt of blue-green lightening, the swallow was up and away.
I love happy endings.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
You might not think a plain ol' cottontail, hopping down the graveled path which runs past my workroom end of the cottage, to be much in the way of portrait or post material. Well, that's because you don't know that hopping rabbits—or non-hopping ones, for that matter—on the graveled path or elsewhere in the yard, could legitimately be called rare. Fact is, this might be the first one I've spotted through this window since moving here nearly eight years ago.
Not that cottontails are otherwise rare hereabouts—merely rare to my yard. I see one every now and then at the end of the driveway. And I frequently spot them in yards belonging to neighbors up the road.
But not here, in the main yard. Maybe because of the nearby river. The rocky, lack-of-escape-holes ground. Or especially the prevalence of roaming cats. Certainly not because of any shortage of food—until I mowed yesterday, you could have lost a Volkswagen in the lush, knee-high grass.
Whatever. When this one came hop, hop, hopping into view recently, I was more than a bit startled. Which made two of us, as Br'er Rabbit seemed equally nonplussed when he paused, glanced at the cottage window, and saw some surprised fellow eagerly pointing a handy Nikon his way.